E-cash mobile phone trials start in 2008

Britain's mobile phones are guaranteed to become e-cash wallets within a couple of years.

Only a few months after we brought you the news of Barclayard's OnePulse combined credit and Oyster card, we have the first signs of the inevitable move to mobile phones becoming electronic cash.

As reported in yesterday's Observer, the credit giant is teaming up with Nokia to road test phones that include the RFID chips found in the OnePulse and Oyster cards. The result will be an electronic wallet in each handset.

London shoppers only

Early next year will see several hundred Barclaycard customers receiving Nokia handsets that will work in around 1,000 London shops - they need only to be waved at RFID reader terminals to initiate the transaction. Small payments go through instantly, while anything over £10 requires a PIN.

The technology is nothing new - far more advanced systems are already in everyday use in Japan, for example and we've already seem several possible alternatives - but the trial is the first step towards public acceptance of e-cash-enabled phones.

When the secure nature of contactless payments by phone becomes clear, it won't be long before all new phones come with the chips. Nokia reckons mass-market acceptance will come around 2010 or 2011, but we wouldn't be surprised to see that happen a little sooner. From experience, we know moving to e-cash is one of those very compelling moves people find it hard to go back on.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.